Remarks by the First Lady and the President at Kids' State Dinner
12:22 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, guys. (Applause.) Thank you so much. You all, rest yourselves. I know you've been waiting patiently. Coming to the White House, it's a big hassle, isn't it? (Laughter.)
You guys should really know that this is what it's like to be a part of an official state dinner. We set this event up and we mirrored it exactly to what people experience when we host world leaders. We were in this very room -- that receiving line you had to sit through -- stand through, we do that. So it takes a little patience being at the White House. But you guys are phenomenal. We are so proud of you all.
I want to start by thanking Haile. Gosh, girl, I mean, you're -- I have had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with this young lady, and every time I am with her, she is that poised, that gracious, that bright, that inspiring. And you did it again. (Laughter.) You did it -- I am so proud of you for setting an example.
And I know you couldn’t do it without -- I know you want -- go ahead and cry -- (laughter) -- because I would be crying right now. We're very proud of you. And Haile is an example for all of you, what your little, powerful voices can do to change the world. So we are very proud of you, babe. Thanks for being here.
I also want to thank Tanya, as well, and everyone from Epicurious for supporting this event and inspiring thousands of children to get creative and get cooking with their parents. We couldn’t have done this event without you all. You all have been amazing partners. To me, this is an annual event so I hope you get your work shoes on and we're going to get started for next year.
I also have to thank one of my dear friends and essential partners in this effort to get our kids healthy and active -- Secretary Tom Vilsack, from the Department of Agriculture. (Applause.) Thank you. You've been an awesome partner. None of the changes that have been made could have been done without your leadership. And it is something that I know you've been focused on your entire life and I'm just grateful for the support and leadership that you've shown.
I also want to thank all of the staff members from both the Departments of Agriculture and Education for all the work that you all do. And we've got many representatives here. Can you guys stand so that the kids at your tables know who you are? These men and women in suits and ties and jackets and stuff -- they do the hard work every day. (Applause.)
And a little later on, we're going to have a special guest -- a wonderful young woman by the name of Rachel Crow, who's going to be performing here today. She's got an awesome voice. She was involved in the X-Factor. She's very cool. She's going to be here to entertain.
But I also want to join in thanking all the parents who are here with us today -- the parents, the grandparents. And I know out there somewhere are teachers and educators who are also inspiring these young people. Thank you for bringing your kids here today. Thank you for loving them, for supporting them, for encouraging them. I know we've got one grandma in the room -- yay to the grandmas in the room. We love the grandmas. You guys are amazing. Kids, let's give your family members a round of applause. (Applause.)
And most of all, I want to thank and recognize the stars of today's show -- the 54 winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge! Our stars. (Applause.) Yes! Just take a look around -- especially over in that corner over there. (Laughter.) That is what we call the press. (Laughter.) They're here for you, and there are a lot of you all here today. They don’t show up like this for just anybody. I mean, I tell you, sometimes there are just a few of them over in a little corner -- (laughter) -- but today, they're all out in full force because of you.
You all, you come from every corner of our country. Every state is represented here today -- go, every state! You all have created nutritious, delicious dishes inspired by the MyPlate nutritional guidelines for healthy meals. And you all stood out among a pool of more than 1,300 submissions for this contest.
So this was no easy task. If you deal in statistics and odds, the odds were pretty tough getting one of these seats at this table. So you should be very proud of yourselves.
And that’s why this is truly one of my favorite events that we have here in the White House. I mean, we do a lot of cool stuff here. We’ve got singers and stars and world leaders, but this, probably throughout the entire White House, is one of our favorite events because we get to see how talented and creative and brilliant all of you young people can be. And then we get to show the world.
And we don’t just get to see it, we get to taste it. (Laughter.) Just listen to some of the delicious, nutritious dishes that these kids dreamed up: “Banana’s Black Bean Burritos” -- (applause.) Yes, let’s hear it. (Laughter.) Okay, moms, you guys are going to have to cheer it up for your kids because they’re so nervous. I know you’re thinking to yourselves, my kids talk so much, but then they came here to the First Lady and they didn’t say a word. (Laughter.)
“Confetti Peanut Ginger Party Pasta.” (Applause.) “Pan Seared Mississippi Catfish on a Bed of River Rice.” (Applause.) That’s my guy -- catfish loving. “Bring It On Brussels Sprout Wrap.” (Applause.) Bring it on! “Slam-Dunk Veggie Burger.” (Applause.)
And then there are the “Fun Mini-Pizzas with Veggies and Cauliflower Crust.” (Applause.) Listen to this, all of you -- we’re going to be eating that here because all the dishes here are among those that were submitted. But this recipe was submitted by Olivia Neely from Kansas. And let me just tell you something, Olivia’s crust is gluten-free and it is made of cauliflower, egg, low-fat cheese and spices.
And when Sam Kass -- who is the Let’s Move Executive Director and Assistant White House Chef -- tasted it -- is Sam here? There’s Sam Kass. Sam didn’t -- he didn’t believe that there wasn’t any wheat in it. He was skeptical. (Laughter.) The health guy was skeptical. (Laughter.) So skeptical that he walked down to the kitchen and asked the chef whether they’d slipped in some wheat to make sure that the crust tasted right. But they told him, nope, no wheat; just the ingredients Olivia put in the recipe.
So we have seen that when kids like all of you get involved in creating your own healthy meals, the results can really be amazing and delicious and fun. You’ll come up with ideas that none of us grownups ever thought of. You’ll find new ways to get your families and friends to eat healthy and try new foods.
I know that all of you have been motivated by different events in your life, different people in your life, even, to cook healthy and to make changes. And some of you might even start your own online cooking show maybe. Maybe you’ll start making appearances on local TV newscasts. I know some of you have already started doing that -- like Amber Kelley, our winner from Washington State. Amber, where are you? (Laughter.) You slipped right under my nose. You’ve been making the TV rounds? Pretty spectacular.
But that’s really what drives Let’s Move -- the energy and imagination that’s inside each and every one of you in this room. We know that if you’re able to eat healthy foods, if you have more opportunities to get up and active -- because that’s all part of it, we all know that, got to get up and move -- and if you’re surrounded by parents and teachers and community leaders who encourage you to live healthier lives, then there’s no telling what you’ll achieve. There’s no telling.
That’s why we’re working with businesses across the country, like Epicurious, to find new ways to promote healthy eating. It’s why we’re working with schools and health professionals to teach you about making good choices not just at home, but in school as well. Because we know sometimes you get to school, you lose your mind, right? (Laughter.) We're working on that. It’s why we’re working with restaurants and food companies and grocery stores, so that you have healthy options that give you the energy that you need to succeed in school and in life.
Because in the end, Let’s Move isn’t just about what happens in the kitchen or at the dinner table. It’s also about what happens after you fuel up with those right foods. It’s about making sure that your body can be strong and healthy, and your mind can be ready to learn and explore and dream, today and for years to come. That's really what this is all about. This is about giving you the foundation to fly high and dream big.
Right here in this room, we’re already seeing what can happen if you’re making healthy choices, because as Tanya mentioned, this group is full of student leaders, not just student chefs. You guys are members of your student council. We have some Odyssey of the Mind finalists in this room. We've got Spelling Bee champions in this room. We have volunteers who serve throughout their communities.
Lydia Finkbeiner from Indiana donated half the proceeds from her lemonade stand to a children’s hospital. And Liam from Wisconsin -- where's my guy, Liam? Where are you? There's Liam with his bowtie -- started an organization called Harvest Ninjas to raise awareness about childhood hunger. And I know that there are so many more examples like this -- I heard a few of them during the receiving line -- of all the wonderful things that you guys are doing in your lives.
So the point is that none of us knows what’s next for all of you; none of us knows how far you can go. All of that is really up to you. And it's about eating healthy, but it's also working hard in school. Because my second question is, how are your grades? Are you working hard?
But we do know that if you keep dreaming up new ideas, if you keep eating healthy and getting active, then you’re going to make your communities and your country stronger than ever before. You really are. You all are the future. Each of you has so much promise and so much potential. As 8-year-old Nicholas Hornbostel from Colorado said, “I really want to be a cook and an engineer and be president, too.” (Laughter.) That's an outstanding list. (Laughter.) That’s what this state dinner is really about. We really want you guys to realize your dreams.
And as I always say when I have kids here, I want you to think, if you can walk in this room and sit at these chairs, and be in front of these cameras, and meet the First Lady of the United States, then you can do anything in the world. You really can. You can do anything you want in the world.
So your next task is to pass it on. You've got to keep passing it on. There are a lot of other little kids who would love to be in this room and they can't, but you can bring them here. You can share your thoughts and ideas. You can do as Haile has done -- become a leader. You guys are more than equipped to do it. You guys are already doing it.
So keep working hard, all right? You guys promise me that? Do I hear some promises going on here? You guys are hungry, aren't you? (Laughter.) All right, I know when we have hungry children in the room. Well, you guys have a great time. Eat well. And I can't wait to see what you're going to do with your lives in the years to come.
I love you all. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
* * * *
MRS. OBAMA: It’s okay to eat with your fingers. (Laughter.) The First Lady has said that it is okay. Parents, okay? (Laughter.) Don't make them eat with a fork and knife. Just pick it up. (Laughter.)
Now, the second surprise is that there is someone else here who wanted to say hello -- a dear, dear man in my life, someone who I love deeply, who is the wind beneath my wings -- (laughter) -- who is just a very awesome world leader -- the President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, hello, everybody! (Applause.) Everybody, have a seat, have a seat.
Now, first of all, usually at a state dinner, I get invited. (Laughter.) So I don't know what happened on this one -- somehow the invitation slipped through somewhere. But it looks like you guys are having fun.
I wanted to come by, first of all, because everybody looks very nice -- you guys all got dressed up. Second of all, I hear the food is pretty good. (Laughter.) And I want to say I could not be prouder of the work that Michelle has done, her team -- Sam Kass and all of you have, I really think, lifted up the whole fact that food can be fun, it can be healthy, and that when you combine it with the work that Michelle has been doing and I know all of you are involved with, with Let's Move, eating healthy, living healthy -- you are setting up habits that are going to be great for your entire life.
And you're setting a great example for your classmates, and I suspect you’re setting a good example for your parents, who sometimes may not always be eating as healthy as they’re supposed to. So you're really making a difference in all the communities and all the states all across the country. We could not be prouder of you.
And we're really proud of you winning this challenge -- because, frankly, I'm not a great cook and -- I'm not bad, but I don't do it that much. It’s hard to find the time. But when I do cook, I'm following a recipe. And to think that all of you have invented all this fabulous food just shows how creative you are and it shows that food that tastes good can be healthy, too. Because I think sometimes we get thinking that if it’s good for you then it must be nasty. (Laughter.) Now, I'll admit that there’s some things that are good for you that don't taste very good. (Laughter.) But it’s usually because -- no, it’s usually because they’re not prepared right.
So I will just tell you a story. When I was a kid -- I'm now older than most of your parents, which is kind of depressing -- but my family, when they cooked vegetables they would just boil them. Remember that? And they’d get all soft and mushy, and nobody wanted to eat a pea or a Brussels sprout because they tasted horrible because they were all mush. And broccoli, it would be all mushy. And now I actually like vegetables because they’re prepared right. And so you guys are getting a jump on things because you're figuring that out earlier.
So I just want to say to all of the young people here, keep it up. You guys are going to set a good example for everybody all across the country. Because you’re eating healthy, and you're out there active and you’re playing sports, and you’re out on the playground and doing all those things, not only are you going to have a better life, but you're also helping to create a stronger, healthier America. And that saves us money. It means people are not sick as much. It means that our health care costs go down. So everything that you’re doing really is having an impact beyond just fixing a good meal.
And for parents, I want you guys to learn from the example of your children and keep working on these good recipes.
So I hope everybody has fun. Again, I couldn’t be prouder of my wife for this whole initiative, but I’m also thankful to all of you. And I will come around to the tables just to say hi to everybody. But I don't want to be too disruptive, so everybody kind of stay in their seats. I will come to you. (Laughter.) And I won’t be able to take individual pictures with everybody because I’ve got a few other things going on right now -- (laughter) -- but my White House photographer is going to be following us around, so he’ll be taking pictures while I’m shaking hands with everybody, and everybody will be able to get copies. All right?
Now, one last thing I’ll say -- Michelle never said to me I can just pick up something with my fingers at a state dinner. (Laughter.) So --
MRS. OBAMA: And you can't. That's not -- we’re not doing that.
THE PRESIDENT: So that's not fair. (Laughter.)
All right, thanks, guys. (Applause.)
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